What you need to know:
- Many Kenyans have resorted to the use of cheaper — albeit harmful — energy sources such as wood, including charcoal and firewood.
- Despite firewood being the oldest cooking fuel used by mankind, the adverse effects of wood fuel to the environment are catastrophic.
For the better part of the 21st Century, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), or cooking gas, has been known to be a basic need of most households in Kenya. This has been one of the most popular ways to innumerable people to use in preparing meals fast not only at home but also commercially.
The prices of buying and refilling a LPG cylinder was then affordable but since the implementation of the Finance Act from this month that imposed Value Added Tax (VAT) on cooking gas, the cost of refilling a 13kg cylinder has shot up by at least Sh350.
This comes at a time when many middle and low-class Kenyans are struggling to put a meal on the table as the economy is in bad shape due to Covid-19. Most of the people now opt for cheaper — albeit harmful — energy sources such as wood, including charcoal and firewood, whose use destroys the environment. But despite firewood being the oldest cooking fuel used by mankind, the adverse effects of wood fuel to the environment are catastrophic.
Unsustainable wood harvesting
LPG is easier to transport and burns consistently, making it more reliable than other sources of energy, but it is also environmentally friendly compared to any other. Although all energy sources release carbon dioxide into the air, compared to wood fuel, LPG releases less than 70 per cent of the toxic gas.
If proper technology — such as energy-efficient wood and charcoal stoves — is used and wood fuel sourced from sustainably managed forests, it is a carbon-neutral source of energy and does not harm the environment by destroying wildlife habitat and increasing the carbon dioxide congestion in the air.
Unsustainable wood harvesting contributes to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which threatens local ecosystems and biodiversity. Deforestation also inhibits water recycling, triggering severe floods, soil degradation, depletion of aquifers and extinction of plant and animal species.
Dearer cooking gas means more reliance on fossil fuels. Besides controlling tree cutting for fuel and the planting of more trees, the authorities ought to make modernised wood and charcoal stoves more widely affordable to protect the planet.
Mr Carmi is a biochemist. [email protected]